Ethiopia is one of the most complex places to work in coffee. It's home to coffee itself, and many of the best coffees we've ever tasted come from Ethiopia. On the other hand, Ethiopia has one of the most complicated coffee systems in the world. Finding farmers and cooperatives who consistently produce quality and value sustainability is a huge challenge in Ethiopia. Navigating the byzantine system of the Ethiopian coffee market is another challenge.
This year we again committed to buying essentially all of the coffee that Haru produced from this past harvest, and worked with Haru to divide it up into 2 lots. One is a Kenya-style fermented experimental lot, which we had some good success with last year. The other, is this select lot, which comes from the best weeks of the harvest, with better selected cherry, and prepared to a higher level before being exported. For this, we paid a 15% premium over the premiums we already pay for the rest of the coffee. One might think of this lot is the Grand Cru of Haru for this year, and we are sure you will see why.
Haru is perfect example of what we love about Ethiopian coffee. It is bright and tart yet sweet, and in that duality it is complex but delicate. It's the kind of coffee that makes you think twice about the flavors that are possible in a cup of coffee.
The Haru Cooperative was founded in 1975-76, and they joined the Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (YCFCU) umbrella cooperative in 2002 as a founding member. Since then the cooperative has gone through tough times, notably during the 2009-2010 harvest when they lacked the finances to produce coffee. The past 4 years, however, they have reorganized and are becoming a great, productive, and high-quality producing cooperative.
Haru is the name of a small village near the town of Yirgacheffe. Often, cooperatives name themselves after the village where they are located, hence the name Haru.
Region: Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia
Elevation: 1,800 - 2,100 meters
Yirgacheffe is likely the most famous or second-most famous town – Harrar being the other – in all of Ethiopia. When we first traveled to Yirgacheffe almost a decade ago, it was hard to believe that a town so tiny that you could almost miss by blinking could have such a reputation. The reputation, however, is there for a reason. As Yirgacheffe revolutionized Ethiopian coffee back in the 1950s by building a washing station to process coffee in the "washed" style popular in Latin America at that time. Yirgacheffe quickly became famous for its sweetly complex, almost tea-like washed coffees, and the area around Yirgacheffe town remains heaven for coffee buyers around the world, including us. Fertile soil, staggering altitude, ideal climate, and myriad heirloom coffee varieties make this a truly special coffee region.
Vegetation and Farms
Farmers in the Yirgacheffe area are very small, most having only about 1.5 hectares of land, and of that 1.5 hectares about half is usually coffee. It is a diverse ecosystem with lots of different plants and shade. This area is also quite populated, making the diversity of the ecosystem that much more impressive. While forested land and tree diversity are an issue in many parts of Ethiopia, the amount of shade canopy in Yirgacheffe is really impressive. While a large percentage of the population here grows coffee as a cash crop, people are largely subsistence farmers. Enset (false banana) is the main food crop followed by many types of fruits, vegetables, and beans.
As many coffee people know, Ethiopia is the indigenous birthplace of coffee, which is believed to have grown wild in the southwestern forests for millennia.Therefore, Ethiopia has the longest standing traditions of coffee culture and cultivation in the world. Ethiopia's coffee trees have cross-pollinated an unknown number of times, creating more genetic coffee diversity than all other producing countries combined. As for the coffee culture of Ethiopia, it stands alone as well. No other country celebrates coffee with such high regard; the reverence of the daily coffee ceremony is a cultural treasure and an incredibly important part of the fabric of Ethiopian social, familial, and even business life. Ethiopia is also the only country that comes close to drinking almost as much coffee as they produce.
Harvest Time: January 2013
Process: Washed. After the underwater fermentation, the coffee is then washed and sent to a soak tank. The coffee is soaked for around 18 hours after washing and fermentation.
Drying: raised beds. Around 14 days.
Number of Co-op Members: 1,187